“Tasha, you know I’m right. Don’t no man want some chick hanging on him 24/7. And don’t no girl with an ounce of self-worth go chasing after a man.”
“But he said that it would just be easier if I moved into his apartment off campus,” Nikki said.
“Yeah, easier to fu-.”
“Enough, Geri.” I cut my eyes at my best friends. I had worked hard to put this outfit together, and their bickering was ruining my moment. I wasn’t even able to enjoy the admiring looks from the students loitering the Quad. I loved my beautiful messy friends, but sometimes they got on my last nerves.
“Sorry, Tasha,” Nikki said her soft voice hanging like dead weight in the magnolia scented air. “See you after class?”
Geri nudged me with her elbow, but I kept walking my new heels clicking loudly on the cobblestoned street.
“You’re being mean, Tasha.”
“I’m being mean?” I sucked my teeth. “She’s always in someone’s pocket.”
“Duh! She looks up to you,” Geri said, “that’s why she tries so hard.”
“Well, hell that’s her problem,” I said. Geri turned to wave goodbye to Nikki.
“Poor thing, if I’m ever that pitiful,” Geri said, “kill me.”
“Now who’s being mean?” Geri shrugged, her blouse slipping to one side exposing one smooth cocoa brown shoulder.
“Hey, pretty don’t have to be nice, isn’t that what you always say?”
“Exactly,” I smiled already forgetting why I was even mad in the first place. “Movies. Tomorrow night. I’ll call Nikki.” Geri smiled knowing it was the only apology she was going to get.
“Yeah, whatever. Your room, and your snacks though,” Geri said walking backwards.
“Bet,” I said heading off to the cafeteria. Nikki may be a little gullible, but she really was a good girl. Besides she was one of us. She just hadn’t learned yet that being nice was fine but only if there was a big payoff attached.
Geri was right, I could be mean sometimes, but no one could say I wasn’t loyal. For better or worse, those two girls were my crew. We matched.
Nikki and Geri were the first people I’d met at Southern University. It was at freshman orientation and we’d clicked from the start- mainly because we shared similar backgrounds. Like me, both were stunningly beautiful with style to match, but we had one other thing in common- our parents were rich. The South was full of old money, but it was usually old white money, which we definitely weren’t which really put us in a category of our own.
However, money and looks weren’t the only things we had in common. Both Geri and Nikki were just as ambitious as I was, they just hadn’t realized it yet. I planned to change that over the next four years. I kind of didn’t have a choice. The last thing I wanted was to hit it big alone. I wanted my equally fabulous girls with me.
“Hey, Miss you want a free t-shirt? We’re giving them out with every credit application.” I ignored the vendors planted beneath the massive oak trees and kept walking. I’d had at least three credit cards before I’d left middle school. Besides, I had an assignment to get to. It wasn’t much, but it was a chance for me to add to my growing writing portfolio. I wrote for The Printz, the school paper, and I loved it.
The journalism department was the reason I’d chosen Southern University. The department had a reputation for their graduates going on to have amazing high-profile careers. I considered getting my journalism degree my first step to pop culture icon status I’d always dreamed of becoming.
Unlike my classmates I never wanted to be the next Robin Roberts or Gayle King, I liked the light stuff. I wasn’t interested in politics or what war was happening on the other side of the world. I liked to keep it easy, and my editor Kenyon knew it. Student council beefs on campus, or tuition hikes- not interested, but if he had a human-interest story about a dog and alligator that were best friends or a story about what people thought about who Lori Harvey was dating? I was all over it. That was how I rolled, light and breezy. Keep it cute was my motto, but I wasn’t a flake.
Pretty in the face and cute in the waist might be what people saw when they looked at me, but I had plans- Big Plans. Kenyon had given me free reign on a puff piece for the food section in the Printz’s next edition, but I intended to turn it into an epic story that would have everyone talking.
Southern’s cafeteria was super famous for one thing- coleslaw. Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, the creamy side dish was served with every meal except breakfast, and always ran out without fail. It was addicting it was so good. One taste, and you wanted seconds.
Its ingredients were a closely guarded secret. Many people had asked for the recipe but the staff refused to give it up. It was tangy, sweet and tart all at the same time, but not even the nerds over in the chemistry lab had been able to replicate it.
I’d heard only one worker knew how to make the stuff, Ms. Oleta. As I watched an elderly black woman standing off to herself my pulse started to race. Surrounded by heads of cabbage, it had to be her. This was my chance to write something legendary.
Kenyon had sent me for a couple of quotes about the upcoming homecoming celebration dinner, but I saw a chance for something bigger. I intended to expose a secret that many had tried but failed to get. It would be my first exposé. I could feel the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Keep it cute, girl! I smoothed one manicured hand down my just pressed hair as I stepped into my destiny.
“Yeah, well I have an interview with Ms. Oleta,” I said refusing to be intimidated by the older woman glaring back at me. I doubled down, “My editor, hooked it up.”
“Hmph,” the older woman grunted. “Hooked it up? I ain’t heard nothing about no hook up.”
“Look, I don’t know why someone as in the know as yourself doesn’t know, but I’m supposed to be meeting with Ms. Oleta at three,” I said. “Can you get her- please?”
Realizing I wasn’t taking no for an answer, the woman exhaled loudly before walking to the kitchen’s office. The other workers all older women in their late forties to sixties moved around the kitchen with purpose getting ready for the evening meal.
In the biggest kitchen I’d ever seen, there were women, mostly black and brown, washing pots, cutting vegetables, or putting trays of meat in the ovens. On the far side of the kitchen, I looked again to the one woman working alone. She held a large metal spoon as she looked down into a bowl filled with mounds and mounds of shredded cabbage. She had to be Ms. Oleta. Quietly, I moved closer to get a better view.
I’d wanted a photographer for my story, but Kenyon had refused out right, but that was okay. Ms. Oleta was who I really wanted. I watched the woman line her ingredients up on the table beside her, and I knew what I had to do. Hiding behind one of the large white columns for cover, I took my phone out and pressed record for video. I had the perfect view of the woman. I could see everything. I recorded her as she put in several scoops of carrots, some mayonnaise, sugar. Then there were some spices, which I zoomed in on. I hoped when I got home and edited it, I could make out the labels.
The woman used no utensils other than her metal spoon. There was no measuring just a scoop of this or that. Once all the containers had been used and set down, I expected the old woman to stir, but she didn’t. She just stood over the bowl looking down into it her brown wrinkled lips moving as if she were talking to herself. Then she picked up her spoon again.
I watched her stir the contents in the metal bowl several times. Then she leaned over the pot again. I watched in shock as a humongous gelatinous glob of spit fell from her mouth. It hung for what felt like several seconds growing heavier and heavier until it dropped into the bowl. I thought my eyes were playing a trick on me, but then it happened again. Then there was a third time. This white glob was even bigger than the other two.
“Oh. My. Gawd,” I whispered zooming in on the woman’s face. It was blank as if she were in some sort of trance, but then suddenly she blinked and began mumbling to herself again.
I watched the old woman lean back then she took her big spoon and began stirring. I looked at the other workers, but none of them were even looking in the direction of the old woman.
In shock I followed her as she picked up the bowl and walked through the kitchen doors to the serving area right to the spot the coleslaw always sat in at the end of the buffet line. The coleslaw that I’d been eating along with everyone else since my first day at university.
It was a running joke in the cafeteria that a plate wasn’t complete without coleslaw. It was a part of the freaking university’s campaign to recruit students!
I wanted to believe this was the first and only time. Today was just a bad day for Ms. Oleta. Surely, she didn’t do this every time. Maybe someone pissed her off? That’s what I told myself, but another voice came through louder and clearer. It said, ‘you know better, and you’ve got it on film.’
All I knew was that she had to be stopped. I put my phone away and walked through the kitchen to the exit.
Like what you’ve read? Get the rest at: Amazon